Press "Enter" to skip to content

Author: Elizabeth Broman

Design competitions as old as design

Design is for public consumption. Its process is collaborative and frequently involves many iterations of an idea before the best solution is found. This is why contests in design come about so naturally. Design competitions date all the way back to 448 BCE when the city of Athens decided to construct a war memorial on the Acropolis. This decision followed the Greco-Persian war and the watershed Battle of Marathon in Athens. Not all design competitions follow landmark events though.

Cooper Hewitt Pro-Seminar Series: Embracing ‘Phobia’

All incoming students in The New School Parsons History of Design and Curatorial Studies (MA) Masters’ Degree Program at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum take an object and research based class called Pro-Seminar. This course trains students in conducting formal analyses, writing catalog entries, and making visual presentations that require students to conduct and integrate primary and secondary source research.  Students select one work from the museum collection to study during this first semester, that ”work” can be a book from the Cooper Hewitt Design Library presented by staff during curatorial orientations. Phobia was chosen as a Pro-Seminar topic by Joseph T. McPartlin in the fall of 2015.

It’s Your Deal. Five Card Stud, or… Whist?

L: Book illustration (England), 1816; engraving. Title page: From an ancient print engraved by Israel Van Mecken. Researches into the history of playing cards; with illustrations of the origin of printing and engraving on wood … By Samuel Weller Singer. London, R. Triphook, 1816. GV1233 .S61X CHMRU. Smithsonian Libraries. R: Acorn suit of playing cards. Book illustration (England), 1816; engraving. German playing cards, Plate VII. (with suits of bells, hearts, leaves and acorns). 15th century. GV1233 .S61X CHMRU. Smithsonian Libraries.

 

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Library owns books like Researches into the history of playing cards (1816) that support research into the objects in the museum’s curatorial departments.  In studying this book, I was able to make a connection between the book illustrations and some playing cards in the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s Drawings & Prints collections.  This book is an in-depth research into the history of playing cards, with black and white engravings, and eight hand-colored woodcuts. Smithsonian Libraries’ has an Adopt-a-Book Program that provides essential funding to support the conservation, acquisition, and digitization of books and manuscripts. In addition to adopting books online, the Cooper Hewitt Library will be having a special Adopt a Book event on Nov.7th, 2017 in the museum in New York City.  This title is one of the books up for adoption to fund its preservation treatment.

Porcelain Designs as Propaganda

Six Ukrainian cup designs
Six Teacup Designs, Plate XI. Katalog farforu fa︠i︡ansu i maĭoliky (Catalog of porcelain, faience and majolica. Kiev, Ukraine by Ukraïns’ke Der︠z︡havne vydavny︠t︡stvo mis︠t︡sevoï promyslovosti. qNK4141.U47 K19 1940 CHMRB

This extremely rare 1940 trade catalog the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum Library,  Katalog farforu faiansu i maĭoliky, represents the production of not any one company. It is the output of 10 state-owned ceramics factories all over the Ukraine in small towns and villages, after industry was nationalized in 1918. This is a primary source document for the decorative arts and for studying the material culture and political history of the Ukraine and the former Soviet Union.

So you want to build something…

Builder and Woodworker. “Medieval door.” Vol. 31, no.6 June 1895. Plate 16. NA1. A43 CHMRU
Builder and Woodworker. “Medieval door.” Vol. 31, no.6 June 1895. Plate 16.

The Cooper Hewitt Library collects a variety of trade periodicals, especially those dealing with architecture and the building trades. The Architect, builder and woodworker is a journal of industrial art that offers practical and technical information for anyone with the skill and interest in designing a home or other building. We own nearly 100 issues ranging from 1875-1895. Architecture as a profession at this time was just emerging; master builders, draftsmen, and craftsmen created structures and the features and furnishings in them

Terrific Textiles: Tasteful Turbans

Written by Jessica Masinter. She is an intern in the Cooper Hewitt Library and a literary studies major at Middlebury College.

“Turbans. Plain and Colored.” Taken from Watson’s explanatory book, “Textile Manufactures and the Costumes of The People of India.”

This follow up blog to “The Textile Thief and the Great British Manufacturers,” focuses on Watson’s samples of turban pieces and their significance in India in the mid-1800s. When J. Forbes Watson was collecting samples for his collection Textile Manufactures of India, turbans were worn almost universally throughout India. In Watson’s companion book to his sample collection, entitled Textile Manufactures and the Costumes of the People of India, he recorded his observations on the uses and styles of turbans, paying particular attention to the way beauty and utility combined in the designs.

The Textile Thief and the Great British Manufacturers

Written by Jessica Masinter. She is a summer intern in the Cooper Hewitt Library and a literary studies major at Middlebury College.

(L): Textile sample No. 464 from “Textile Fabrics of India, second series, Volume 9, Mushroos and Imroos.” Main sample measures 19x10cm. “For Examination of Texture” sample square measures 4x4cm. (R): Textile sample No. 972 from “Textile Fabrics of India, second series, Volume 17, Cotton.” Main sample measures 19x10cm. “For Examination of Texture” sample square measures 4x4cm.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Indian textiles were the height of quality. Their exotic patterns, brilliant colors and dye fastness drove customer appeal among the English bourgeoisie to the point where India was considered by some to be the industrial workshop of the world. British textile manufacturers desperately tried to produce fabrics and patterns that imitated Indian textiles, attempting to ‘cash in’ on the in-demand designs. To do so, however, the British manufacturers required an in-depth knowledge of Indian textiles—and J. Forbes Watson was just the man to help.